“Stupid” is such a harsh word, it somehow infers that the person asking the question is stupid as well. In the words of Carl Sagan:
“There are naïve questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every question is a cry to understand the world. There is no such thing as a dumb question.”
I agree with Sagan that questions help us clarify and understand our world. I asked my nine year old son if he thought there was any such thing as a stupid question, and he said, “Yes, there are dumb questions-the ones you already know the answers to.”
How do we get students to ask better questions? What if we start by asking them the kinds of questions we hope they will ask us? The Art of Asking Questions provides several suggestions to help us model what good questions are and demonstrate how instrumental they can be in promoting thinking, understanding, and learning.
I particularly like the idea of asking questions you can’t answer, questions currently being debated, but as of this moment, the answers are unknown. This type of question is far more interesting than one that can be answered. Are there theories or research findings that suggest answers? Are some of those more likely than others? Could the answer be something totally unexpected? With this type of question, the opportunity for creative and critical thinking is vast, and in some ways it is freeing when there is no particular right answer. I could see using this strategy in a variety of settings to spark conversation and as a springboard for other learning activities, such as journal writing.